Beyond the hype: Five exciting AI outcomes in the next five years

  • Posted on April 18, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 5 minutes
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This article was originally published on Forbes.

Media chatter featuring “robots taking over jobs” can incite anxiety, causing a slow embrace — even fear — of artificial intelligence (AI). But is this a valid argument? How I see it, there are so many benefits and success stories that far outweigh any potential downside to AI. The truth is that AI presents a need for new talent: talent to skill up and fill new needs.

There can be risks to integrating AI, but these risks are mostly associated with the need for more specificity around its use. For example, when companies don’t properly unearth the business challenge they might be trying to solve with AI, failure is a probable outcome. AI needs to be baked in across all functions in an organization. There is talk about having clean data, but if you define the business challenges first, you can work around this.

It is also no secret that there are ethical issues and concerns surrounding AI, and companies must be prepared to meet these concerns head-on. In our recent study, 89% of the CIOs interviewed said they've experienced digital ethical concerns around AI. All algorithms have bias, and companies need to be careful about how they apply algorithms and acknowledge those biases. How data is used also matters. Many companies sell data to third parties and have no control over what those parties do with it. Organizations should implement governance around digital ethics; it’s a boardroom discussion.

But these potential challenges surrounding AI are no measure against the potential AI can unlock. As President of Product and Innovation, I work closely with our emerging technology and data & AI teams to analyze the market and determine what trends and topics will drive the future for our clients.

Here are five exciting opportunities I believe AI will create:

1. AI creates jobs.
While there is a fear that AI will ultimately shrink the workforce, I believe it will actually enhance the workforce and create new jobs. The industry may currently be in a transition period where jobs are being reconfigured, but there will always be demand for skilled jobs where people can focus on value creation. AI allows the workforce to concentrate on that. Repetitive tasks can be combined and offloaded via process automation, but STEM skills and skills that machines can't replicate are desperately needed. There will never not be a need for that talent.

Human skills such as empathy, leadership and delegation are also vital to the workforce. The implementation of AI is forcing new skills such as data science and data engineering to grow in demand. Data scientists are needed to analyze decisions made by algorithms to check for biases. The World Economic Forum predicts that AI and robots will create as many jobs as they displace. These jobs include smart-machine interaction modelers (who model machine behavior after employee behavior), transparency analysts (who classify different types of opacity for AI algorithms) or even machine-relations managers (who promote algorithms that perform well to greater scale in a business).

2. AI helps flag bias and drive diversity.
For example, when using AI in recruiting or performance management, employees are analyzed in a more unbiased, fact-driven way. This also enables HR personnel to focus on more strategic initiatives. A great application in the HR process is the use of machine learning to understand where bias is creeping in and to act on trends in a timely and positive way. Machine learning flags inherent biases and encourages organizations to change "the way it’s always been done," which can drive diversity in the workplace.

3. AI moves companies to a business-outcome approach, powered by AI-orientated architecture.
Digital transformation (cloud, data, intelligent edge) is becoming more prolific and spanning all aspects of the business, but AI is occurring in silos. Within the next five years, new AI-oriented architecture will allow businesses to do things in a more integrated, holistic way and move away from being stuck in machine-learning models and data science. The shift to business outcomes will occur because AI will be integral to all parts of the business. This is similar to the way cloud was treated five years ago. There is no longer talk about hardware, networks and data centers. It’s about cloud-enabled outcomes. This sort of evolution is coming in the near future, and it will insert a new measure of business success, thanks to AI.

4. AI increases efficiency and refocuses daily tasks and efforts with an emphasis on creation and creativity.
AI will make us more productive, so people can focus on building the next best thing. This allows people to do their jobs better and focus on high-value customer activities. Removing the mundane enables people to focus on doing the things that require an emotional connection and collaboration. This leads to a better employee experience, which we know leads to a better client experience. It also increases time efficiency and frees up workers to focus on more vital tasks.

5. AI makes a positive impact on the world when teamed with other technologies.
The convergence of IoT and AI will provide proactive trend-spotting and problem-solving to the business world. One good example of this is when AI and IoT help us predict where there might be a safety issue in a factory or mine before it becomes an accident, protecting workers and saving lives. IoT and intelligent edge can bring business and workforce transformation using sensors, data and predictions to do work in a fundamentally different way. When paired with other technologies, AI can aid workplace safety, smart and sustainable farming, and so much more.

One thing is clear: It’s an exciting time for the evolution of technology — with AI as a significant technological evolution — but we need to be mindful and responsible to create opportunities for everyone.

Learn how AI can deliver results to your business today.

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